Paul Farnsworth, Chemistry
Description of Scholarly Activities
MEG funding directly supported the efforts of three students in my laboratory during the calendar year 2011. A graduate student, Manan Dhunna, received partial support (approximately one-third of his annual stipend) during the year. His role, in addition to carrying out his own research on ambient ionization sources, was to provide continuity and consistent in-lab supervision for the undergraduates during the times that I could not be present in the lab. Two undergraduates were supported by the grant, Jonathan Wright and Kellie Woodfield. These three students were part of a larger group effort to develop advanced ambient ionization sources for mass spectrometry. As members of the research group, each student was required to submit a weekly written progress report and to attend a weekly research group meeting. The students gave oral presentations on their progress in the group meetings on a rotating basis, with each student typically giving two presentations during a semester. I will summarize the accomplishments of each of the undergraduate students supported by the grant in the following section.
Jonathan Wright has been an exceptionally productive undergraduate researcher in my lab. During the two years covered by the MEG, he has assumed primary responsibility for a part of my research effort that has been very successful and will form the basis for ongoing projects in my lab. Jonathan has been working with helium plasma jets that are used to make ions in the open air. The ions are then drawn into a mass spectrometer for analysis. The efficiency with which the plasma jet converts sample molecules into ions is an important performance metric for the ion source. Jonathan has demonstrated that he can improve source efficiency by more than a factor of ten by adding small amounts of hydrogen to the helium support gas. Jonathan presented his early results at a meeting of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. His attendance at the meeting was supported by the MEG. Jonathan subsequently wrote the first draft of a manuscript describing his work. He and I worked together to revise the paper and respond to reviews of the manuscript. He is the first author on the resulting paper, which has been published in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. This is a premier journal in the field of mass spectrometry with international scope. In addition to his off-campus presentations, Jonathan has presented papers on his work twice at the annual Spring Research Conference held by the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
Kellie Woodfield was given the assignment of building a laser absorption spectrometer to measure the concentration of highly energetic helium atoms in our plasma jet source. An accurate measure of the concentration of these excited atoms is needed as we seek to determine how the source works. A good understanding of the fundamental mechanisms that control source performance is essential as we work to develop improved ionization sources. Kellie specified and purchased all of the components for the spectrometer, including a low-pressure reference cell for calibrating the spectrometer’s performance. She assembled the spectrometer and obtained preliminary results from the reference cell that she constructed. Because she started from ground zero on the project, she has not progressed to the point that her work can be published. She presented her preliminary results at the CPMS Spring Research Conference in 2012. Because of a shift in her interests, she has devoted decreasing amounts of time to the project over the last year, and is in the process of handing it off to another undergraduate researcher. I am confident that Kellie’s work will lay the foundation for publishable work in the next year. I should note that it is typical for research projects in my lab to require years from conception to publication, so the lack of a publication from Kellie’s efforts yet should not be viewed as a failure.
Summary of Expenditures
|Graduate Student Support (Manan Dhunna)||$8,964|
|Undergraduate Wages (Kellie Woodfield and Jonathan Wright)||$6,075|
|Travel (Jonathan Wright attendance at ASMS meeting)||$1,256|
|Supplies (Components for the laser spectrometer assembled by Kellie Woodfield)||$3,705|
Evaluation of the Experience
The research projects supported by this MEG have directly enhanced the undergraduate experience of the students involved. Jonathan Wright’s lab experience and publication have been strong positive factors on paper as he has applied for medical school, and the poise and oral presentation experience he has gained in my lab have made him a stronger candidate in interviews. For Kellie Woodfield the lab experience has helped her focus her educational priorities. She plans to eventually attend medical school after a short period in the secondary schools. Her experience in the lab will be a strong addition to her applications for post-graduate education. The support provided by the MEG has also had a positive influence on students not supported directly by the grant. Both Kellie and Jonathan are training undergraduate students to take over their projects. The MEG has helped me maintain a critical mass of undergraduate researchers in my lab. These students teach each other, they study together, and they form longlasting friendships. I am sure that I can speak on the behalf of my student assistants in expressing gratitude for this valuable internal support for mentoring provided by the university.